The circle of life. Alpha and Omega. The beginning of the end.
Call it what you will. Thursday night could not have played out better for Nebraska's final Big 12 opener and the last game in the foreseeable future with Kansas State. And the end seemed so eerily familiar to the beginning. There was old man Snyder (Happy Birthday, Bill!) throwing his hands up in the air in disgust as a fleet-footed Cornhusker option quarterback (don't kid yourself, we're running the option) streaked up the field for another touch down.
There was that offensive line, bulldozing an out-manned foe and opening up mile-wide holes. There was the defense that controlled the line of scrimmage and held an All American running back to 63 total yards in the game.
There were the purple-clad fans streaming out of the exits early in the fourth quarter leaving Bill Snyder Family Stadium to the traditional traveling Sea of Red and the band playing "There Is No Place Like Nebraska;" the notes fell like acid rain over Aggieville.
And the score. Oh, the score. 48-13, like so many of those contests before Snyder turned around the worst college football program in the nation and took advantage of the Solich/Callahan years to put some victories on the board for KSU. In the end, though, let the record show 78-15-2. The all time win-loss-tie record for the near-century-old series.
The record in favor of Nebraska, just in case you didn't know.
Now, on to the SWOT.
Taylor Martinez. There, you knew his name would come first. The Tmarnator (no, I'm not letting that go, yet) hits fifth gear quicker than anyone I've ever seen on the playing field. He hits it faster than I hit fifth going for the last piece of pizza.
But wait, there's more. Was that the oft-injured Roy Helu absolutely burning up the field on a 68-yard TD run? Did tight end Kyler Reed actually have to stop, catch a deep pass, then start again and still outrun the safety? This is one of the fastest Husker teams I've seen in a long time.
We know that junior Alfonzo Dennard and senior Prince Amukamara are both very fast corners, but what about the linebacking? Senior Dejon Gomes and junior Eric Hagg are supposed to be fast since they are actually hybrid players: secondary defensive stars playing pseudo linebackers. But Lavonte David was a beast. Speaking of which...
David Versus Goliath
Junior college transfer Lavonte David simply did not care that Daniel Thomas is a big, strong, mean running back with a desire for contact. Turns out, Lavonte seems to favor contact as well. David totaled 10 solo and 16 total tackles along with a sack to fuel the aggressive line play on defense. This kid has turned into an energetic terror behind the D-line with 35 total tackles in just his last two games!
Shawn Watson says we haven't seen the talent that Taylor Martinez has in his arm and I'm not going to argue with him. Martinez was much more on target in his 5 for 7, 128-yard night with one touchdown. But the stats lie. Eighty of those 128 yards came on one pass play that was terribly under thrown to a wide-open and speedy Reed.
Sure, I'm nitpicking here. Martinez seemed to be on the money in the short-passing game, hitting his receivers in stride. And, maybe, Cornhusker fans won't need to see much more of the passing game if Martinez can get to the end zone just as fast on his feet.
A Bit Possessive
And speaking of being nit-picky, one thing that was not like old times Thursday night was time of possession. Kansas State had nearly a 10 minute advantage over the Huskers. Now, granted, I may as well complain about Nebraska's big-play ability on offense which tends to put the ball back into the hands of the opposing team fairly quickly. But, still, I'd like to see the Blackshirts get a little rest once in awhile.
I'd Like To Return These, Please.
Kansas State had six kickoff returns totaling 186 yards—a 31 yard average per return! That's the worst game average so far in the Pelini era. Niles Paul didn't particularly astound in the return game for Nebraska, either. However, the punting and field goals of Alex Henery were, as usual, solid to excellent. Let's just call this a draw and move on.
Running Scared No More
Earlier in the year I expressed concern about the Husker's run defense, which allowed previously unknown running backs from Western Kentucky and South Dakota State go over the century mark in a game.
Frankly, I was pretty nervous about the K State game. We all know the Pelini brothers built a soul-crushing defense meant to shut down the spread. But could those speedy little hybrid Peso-backs stop a bulldozer of a running back like Daniel Thomas?
The Wildcats rushed for only 180 yards, much of that occurring late in the game when the outcome was already decided. And Thomas only accounted for a third of that total.
Who, me? Worry? Not anymore.
Alright, I'm not really putting Daniel Thomas in the Heisman race. But he did have the fifth most yards in the nation as a running back. And he was clearly the offensive weapon of choice for Kansas State going into this game and probably for the rest of their games this season.
Oh, and did you happen to check out Jake Locker against USC last weekend? The same Locker that went 4-20 with two interceptions against the Blackshirts accumulated over 300 yards in the air and over 100 yards on the ground against the Trojans at the Coliseum!
Don't get me wrong, I still miss second overall NFL draft pick, Suh. But this defense seems to keep getting stronger as the season rolls on.
Third Time's a Charm?
Ok. Now, who does Nebraska play next? Let me just look it up because I completely forgot. Oh, yeah. Texas. So Texas week is finally upon us.
And it just doesn't seem to matter that much. Seriously. There is no way Texas should be in the game at halftime. The Longhorn defense is formidable but breakable. The offense is a shambles with virtually no running game. The Husker defense should feast off of Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert.
And Texas has lost two in a row. But Texas hasn't lost three consecutive games since, oh, 1913? Texas has nothing to lose while Nebraska is now firmly on a national championship quest.
But I'm certain Nebraska will win this game. In fact, I haven't been this sure of a Nebraska victory since just before the inaugural Big 12 championship game. Doh!
So there you have it. Nebraska opens the season 5-0 for the first time since 2003. They open their last Big 12 season with a resounding old-fashioned butt kicking. And everything old is new again.
Bring on the Longhorns!